University: now arms investment is ‘ethical’

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Oxford University released documents this week showing it believes its investment in the arms trade is ‘socially responsible’.

The University Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee said that potentially providing arms to illegal regimes is not a “sufficiently compelling” reason to cease investment in weapons.

It also said that giving cash to arms companies was not “inconsistent with the objectives of the University”.
Minutes of the Review Committee’s February meeting, which relate these findings, have only been released this week.
The Review Committee was set up in March 2008 to “review the University’s policy on socially responsible investment”.

The board has therefore taken two years to make a decision about investment in the arms trade.

The Review Board did set some limits on investment in weapons. In the meeting on February 4th 2010, the Committee agreed to recommend, “Divestment from any company engaged in the manufacturer [sic] of arms that were banned by UN conventions (e.g. landmines, cluster bombs)”.

However, following the Investment Committee’s advice, the Review Committee agreed that a decision to divest from companies engaging in arms manufacturing would have an adverse effect on the University’s financial return.
The minutes stated, “Total divestment from companies engaging in arms manufacturers should not be recommended.”

The University currently invests over £6 million in UK and US arms companies, according to figures obtained by the Campaign Against Arms Trade in June 2008 under the Freedom of Information Act. This comprises about 1% of the University’s total investment, and is significantly lower than the £713m misreported in The Oxford Student yesterday.

A spokesperson from CAAT, from whom The OxStu also obtained their numbers, confirmed that the £713m referred to total investments, not to investments in arms.

The figure quoted by the paper is therefore almost three quarters of a billion pounds off CAAT’s actual estimate.

However, a spokesperson from the Press Office said the £6m figure could not be confirmed as the information is “confidential”. This figure includes investments in corporations such as BAE Systems, VT Group and Lockheed Martin.

It remains unclear how the Committee’s recommendations are likely to affect the University’s existing investments. According to figures supplied by CAAT, the University currently invests around £1.7 million in BAE Systems.

A spokesperson from CAAT stated, “While 1% of the University’s budget doesn’t sound like very much, it amounts to more than £5 million which could be invested in much more ethical businesses…This is outrageous.”

Despite the level of student opposition to investment in the arms trade, there is only one student representative on the Review Committee, Eorann Lean, OUSU VP for Charities.
Campaigners against University Arms Investment in Oxford remain “undeterred” by the Review Committee’s decision.

Amy Gilligan, Co-Chair of Oxford Anti War Action, told Cherwell that the campaigners “will be calling for even larger protests” than those organised by activists last November.

Decisions made in the follow-up meeting on March 4th will not be made public until mid-May.

Oxford Anti-War Action has voiced concerns regarding how slowly the Review Committee reports back.

The society complained, “That the [latest] decision has only come to light over two months after it was made is indicative of the impenetrable nature, and the secrecy that such committees operate under.”

 

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